SOUTH PRINCE GEORGE, VA – Over the past three years, the Richard Bland College of William & Mary men's soccer team has compiled a 43-13-2 (.730) record and established itself as a force in the region. Twenty-one players have earned All-Region X accolades, and the program earned its first-ever First-Team NJCAA Division I All-America last year when defender VanDyke Gyau earned the prestigious award.
It's fair to suggest that expectations run high for a program that has competed in the NJCAA Division I Regionals and won the Region X Conference regular-season title in the last three years. Second-year head coach Damien Westfield, who led RBC to a 14-3-2 record last season, doesn't hide from the competition but embraces the challenges ahead. "I expect the team to build upon the successful season it had last year and compete to win the Region X Conference," he says matter-of-factly.
A talented roster of 12 returners and 15 newcomers will embark on a 16-game regular-season schedule on August 24 when the Statesmen host Southwest Virginia Community College in the season opener at 3 pm on Willcox Field. The Statesmen will be road tested in 2019 as only seven of the 16 games will be played at home. The good news is that last year's team went 8-0-1 on the road.
"The team has a lot of freshmen returning that played significant minutes last year, so I expect we will be strong," Westfield says.
RBC's strength comes from its patient and efficient offense that averaged 3.84 goals per game (73 on the season) and pelted opposing goalies with an average of 20 shots a game. On eight occasions the Statesmen had more than 22 shots on goal, and that assault on the net won't change this year.
"We are a possession-oriented team that wants to find gaps in the defense, capitalize and score goals," Westfield says. "We approach every game with that mindset."
The Statesmen, who saw 17 different players score at least one goal last season, will be looking for a new cadre of scorers this season. Second-year midfielder Brian Guerrero leads the returning players, scoring 10 goals and three assists in 19 games last season. Classmate Antonio Ferreira chipped in five goals and six assists from his center midfielder position, also seeing action in all 19 games.
Returning players include Caleb Carpenter, Domingos Vital, Maximilian Schoebel, David Comayagua, Ferreira, Gorka Delgado, Caleb Harris, Nehemie Lamtoukou, Miguel Tirado Thomas, Juan Menjivar, Guerrero and Aitor Ruiz de Eguilaz.
Departing defender Gyau, the unanimous Region X Player of the Year, anchored a stingy RBC defense last year. His loss will certainly be felt, but the Statesmen pride themselves on forcing opponent miscues and limiting scoring opportunities. RBC allowed only 16 goals (0.861 per game) and only 108 shots (5.7 per game) on goal. Two of last year's three goalies, Caleb Carpenter and Aitor Ruiz de Eguilaz, return this season, providing experience and skill in the nets.
This year, RBC plays each Region X opponent once instead of the home-and-away series, opening the schedule up for new teams. "I am very happy with the schedule," says Westfield. "We play at Harford (Sept. 14), Northern Virginia (Oct. 1) and Frederick Community College (Oct. 19), all good teams that present something different for our players."
The 2019 schedule presents a string of challenging games inside and outside Region X competition, highlighted by hosting Spartanburg Methodist (Sept. 28), and Wake Tech (Oct. 5) and a road game against defending Region X champion Louisburg, a 2-0 winner over Spartanburg in the title game (Oct. 15). "Every team Region X presents its own challenges," says Westfield. "Our philosophy is to play each game as it comes and take nothing for granted."